The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed several objections to Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees including complaints of block billing and vague entries in Pigford v. Vilsack, 2015 WL 7432322 (D.D.C. Nov. 23, 2015). Ms. Sanders acted as one of plaintiff’s class counsel and was tasked with assisting in the wind-down stipulation and order from September to December, 2014.
The USDA first argued Ms. Sanders provided time entries that were block billed, but the USDA failed to identify specific reasons the tasks billed were not related or unreasonable. The Court determined, without more specificity proffered from the USDA, the entries were sufficiently detailed and the time spent reasonable as billed. The USDA further contends Ms. Sanders billed for otherwise non-payable tasks, including drafting an additional clause in the stipulation with “no substantive import,” sorting out an issue related to checks sent by the USDA, and reading docket entries unrelated to her clients, and vague entries such as, “reviewed stipulation” and “reviewed changes to stipulation.”
The Court granted Ms. Sanders fees for drafting the additional clause as it related to the implementation of the stipulation. In addition, what the USDA claimed as vague entries sufficiently identified the tasks performed by Ms. Sanders in furtherance of the implementation of the stipulation. The Court additionally allowed time billed for consultation with another attorney as it is reasonable for the execution of such a Consent Decree. However, the Court agreed with the USDA and reduced Ms. Sanders’ time billing for sorting out an issue with checks sent to her office by the USDA because the entry did not sufficiently identify whether this task related to the implementation of the stipulation. The Court further reduced Ms. Sanders’ fees for time spent reviewing automatic Court emails and filings associated with class claimants outside of those she represented and found no “colorable argument” these filings assisted Ms. Sanders with her duties. Finally, the Court further reduced Ms. Sanders’ billed time for discussions about time with an assistant since there was no clarification offered as to whether this was the discussion about preparation of a fee petition, which would have been allowed, or drafting time entries in general. The Court ultimately reduced Ms. Sanders’ legal fees by $7,155.20.